Fecal incontinence care at Mayo Clinic
Advanced diagnosis and treatment
Mayo Clinic researchers have developed specialized diagnostic tools for characterizing individual cases of fecal incontinence. They continue with active research in this area.
- Magnetic resonance proctography, a type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that shows pelvic floor motion in real time. This is now a standard clinical test at Mayo Clinic.
- Portable anorectal manometer, a simple, inexpensive device that measures pressures in the rectum and anal canal.
- Anal electromyography (EMG), a test that identifies anal sphincter nerve injury in women with fecal incontinence. Anal EMG offers greater accuracy than other tests for this cause of fecal incontinence.
Mayo Clinic also offers a full range of treatments, including a pelvic floor retraining program. This program teaches you how to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, sense when stool is ready to be evacuated and contract the muscles if evacuation is inconvenient.
Mayo Clinic's Bowel Evacuation Disorders Program is a unique outpatient program not offered elsewhere in the United States. Specially trained nurses work multiple times a day over a two-week period with people who have fecal incontinence or another evacuation disorder.
Many people who enter the program have had unsuccessful treatment at other facilities, but find success here. The program combines biofeedback and behavioral modification, providing individuals with the skills and education necessary to complete a successful follow-up program at home.
- The Motility Clinic is the first center nationwide to use high-resolution anorectal manometry. The Motility Clinic also was the first to develop a system for classifying people with defecatory disorders.
Sacral nerve stimulation (SNS) is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat fecal incontinence. Researchers at Mayo Clinic continue to study and refine SNS. SNS involves implanting a neurostimulator in the pelvis that transmits mild electrical impulses, which researchers believe improves sensation.
Some doctors believe that other treatments should be tried first. However, others suggest that because it is easy to implant, it could be an initial surgical approach.
Sacral nerve stimulation device
During sacral nerve stimulation, a surgically implanted device delivers electrical impulses to the nerves that regulate bladder activity. These are called the sacral nerves. The unit is placed under the skin in the lower back, about where the back pocket is on a pair of pants. In this image, the device is shown out of place to allow a better view of the unit.
Access to the latest research
As a Mayo Clinic patient, you may have access to clinical trials for fecal incontinence. Mayo Clinic is one of four sites in the United States participating in a clinical trial comparing pelvic floor biofeedback therapy with two procedures approved by the FDA — sacral nerve stimulation and perianal injection of a bulking agent for people with fecal incontinence.
Other studies for fecal incontinence treatment include a trial of a new soft, flexible, liquid-filled device that's inserted into the anal canal, and a placebo-controlled trial of the drugs colesevelam (Welchol) and clonidine (Catapres, Kapvay, others).
Find out about Mayo Clinic's clinical trials related to fecal incontinence.
Expertise and rankings
Mayo Clinic specialists treat nearly 3,000 people each year for fecal incontinence.
Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, ranks No. 1 for digestive disorders in the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals rankings. Mayo Clinic in Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona, and Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, are ranked among the Best Hospitals for digestive disorders by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic Children's Center in Rochester is ranked the No. 1 hospital in Minnesota, and the five-state region of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, according to U.S. News & World Report's 2023–2024 "Best Children's Hospitals" rankings.
Locations, travel and lodging
Mayo Clinic has major campuses in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona; Jacksonville, Florida; and Rochester, Minnesota. The Mayo Clinic Health System has dozens of locations in several states.
For more information on visiting Mayo Clinic, choose your location below:
Costs and insurance
Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people.
In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals, or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.
Learn more about appointments at Mayo Clinic.
Please contact your insurance company to verify medical coverage and to obtain any needed authorization prior to your visit. Often, your insurer's customer service number is printed on the back of your insurance card.
Nov. 03, 2022